There’s a saying that ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’ – however, in this electronic day and age it’s more a case of us all facing an ongoing battle against the phishers and pharmers who try and capture our bank or personal details to rob us of everything from our hard earned cash to our very own identity.
If you’re an expat, chances are you’ll do the vast majority of your banking online because of international accessibility and convenience, but this means that you’re even more at risk of losing out to the scamsters and fraudsters out there. What’s more, it’s often far harder for an expat to have any fraudulent transactions rectified, and to receive new bank cards etc., when they’re living abroad.
So, how can expats safely bank offshore and online and avoid any potential issues arising? In this report we’ll show you the risks you’re potentially facing and the ways you can best avoid them.
Choose a Reputable Offshore Bank
If you’re not sure how to manage your day-to-day banking when you move abroad you need to know that your bottom line should be using a reputable and well-run bank. You may of course decide to leave all your money in your old onshore account back in the UK…but if you do decide you want some international access to your cash and you opt for an offshore account, ensure it’s with one of the larger, reputable institutions.
If you want to open a current account in your new nation and you’re not sure who’s who on the high street, Google the local banks and see who their parent or holding banks are. You’ll be surprised how many names internationally are linked to the likes of Santander or HSBC for example!
Once you’re sure you’re banking with a reputable institution, you can begin to utilise their online account management services…
Secure Sites and Secure Computers
Internet banking should be done via a secure site – your bank will give you all the login details required and you’ll probably have to set up a password to access your account details, or use a key code device every time you want to log in.
In terms of passwords, you need to vary them, change them often, use a combination of letters and numbers where possible and always make it an easy password to type quickly in case someone is watching your keystrokes to try and work out what it is you’re actually typing. For more advice about creating a secure password visit The Geek Stuff for example.
In terms of the URL where you log in to your account, it should be a domain that begins https rather than just http – the extra ‘s’ denotes ‘secure’ – and look for a padlock symbol. This is often located on the top right hand side of your browser window and if you click on it it will display the security certificate for the website and whether it’s valid or not.
However, entering your bank account via a so called ‘secure site’ is not sufficient protection for your personal or banking data if you’re entering it on a shared or public computer, a smart phone or an iPad for example. You need to ensure that you use a ‘safe’ computer to access your bank account too.
This means that ideally you’ll only use your home computer, and that you’ll have firewalls as well as anti virus and spyware software set up on your computer. If you do have to log on using a shared computer you run the risk of others capturing the data you enter…and if you use a smart phone or iPad in public you never know who’s watching your every keystroke.
Always log out of your bank account completely when you’ve finished transacting or if you need to step away from your computer for even just a moment. And get into good habits of never writing your password down, regularly changing your password and never sharing your bank account details electronically – i.e., sending them via email or putting them up on a social networking site.
Unsolicited Emails and ‘Fraud’ Alerts from Your Offshore Bank
I don’t know about you but I receive a tonne of spam, junk and phishing attempts every week in my email inbox. All go straight in the bin after I flag them up for being the rubbish that they are – however, I am also aware that every once in a while a creative type sends a very legitimate looking email that could easily con.
If in doubt about whether an email is a legitimate fraud warning from your bank for example look at the email account it has been sent from and the URL you’re being asked to click on and see if both are from your bank. Chances are they are not. Delete it! If the email contains a file you are being asked to open never ever open it your bank will never send you a file to open! It will be a Trojan attempt to steal data or corrupt your computer.
Next up, any email that comes and asks you to reply or click a link and submit or send personal data is a scam. Delete it. And finally, your bank will never contact you via email for anything important – it will ring you or write to you via snail mail! If in doubt, pick up the phone and ring your bank and ask them.
By the way – you haven’t won the lottery, you haven’t been emailed by HMRC about a tax rebate, you haven’t been left any money in anyone’s will, and if anyone emails you asking for charity handouts delete the email no matter how bad their sob story is. Legitimate companies, charities, organisations and businesses don’t send unsolicited email asking for money or your personal or bank account details – ever!
Making Payments Online
I don’t know how ‘they’ do it but ‘they’ do sometimes scam and steal sufficient data to fraudulently use your bank cards after you buy stuff online. It’s happened to me and it has happened to every single friend of mine who regularly shops on the Internet.
Personally I always believe I’m using a legitimate site to buy from, but my card was scammed after using the site of a leading British department store. I told them about it but they didn’t want to know! Fortunately my bank spotted the scam and stopped the payment, but they cancelled my cards and I had to travel back to the UK to get new ones! Which is just one of the annoyances of using your old onshore British bank account instead of an offshore bank account! I have an offshore account – but I used my UK account – go figure!
Anyway, the fact of the matter is, you cannot be certain that you are safe when buying online. So, you can protect yourself – you can have a credit card with a very small allowance that you only use to shop online and then you can keep a very close look at payments made on the card when your statement comes through each month. You can also only keep a small amount of cash in your current account just in case that or your debit card are accessed.
Check statements immediately and very carefully, contact your bank the moment you spot a false payment or a payment you can’t remember making. If goods arrive that you haven’t ordered obviously contact the store that sent them and your bank too – apparently test purchases are made using your full data before the scamster then changes the address details held by the store to their own! And at the same time, if items you’ve ordered or post you’re expecting doesn’t arrive, chase that up too – it could be that items are being intercepted and your identity is being stolen.
Phishing, pharming and scamsters will not go away as there are many people in this world who believe that robbing others is a legitimate way to make a living. We all have to be acutely aware that it’s a war, and one we can win with vigilance and caution.